We’ve talked about upcycling and the huge role it can play in reducing waste, but where should you look to find the best items for your recycling projects? Flea Markets are a great start (and we’ll talk about them in more detail here), but they’re best for furniture, small items and decorations. What if you’re looking to upcycle something more substantial? That’s where salvage yards come into their own as a fantastic hunting ground, whether you’re looking for a statement piece or just want to save the world.
That’s right: you can save the world with shopping.
Think about it; when IKEA was founded in 1943, an era of flat-packed, designer-living dawned. Suddenly, every university student could afford brand new furniture! Just as suddenly, the idea of buying second-hand became (literally) old hat.
We’ve all bought a Billy, or a Kallax, or a Ypperlig at one time or another, and why not? They’re well made (at least up to the point they hand the Allen Key over to you), and they look good (at least when they’re new). They do the job you need at a reasonable price. However, that reasonable price on paper has a whole ream of side-effects you may not have thought about.
The brand new item you’ve just had delivered (for a carbon cost), was harvested, pre-prepared and shipped to your local-ish IKEA store (for a carbon cost). Now you’re stripping off it’s packaging, recycling the cardboard, ignoring the pang of guilt for the styrofoam you’re having to throw out, and whazhow! You’ve got your brand new… Platsa.
But there’s a far more insidious downside to your Malm.
For every new product you buy, there’s a used one out there that you didn’t buy! Now, rather than getting renovated, it’s scrap and you’ve got some perfect bonfire fuel in 5-10 years, after which even the best-treated of IKEA furniture will be showing its age.
So now, because you bought “new”, there will eventually be two dining settings headed to the tip and the packaging they rode in on.
Of course, there is a time and place for buying new. When you do, pay more for something that will last longer! Buy that potential heirloom whenever you can, and if you wind up not wanting it, someone else will.
And if you want to buy something that will survive, where better to start than by buying something that’s already lasted a lifetime or two?
The best place to do that is your nearest, best salvage (or reclamation) yard. How do you find them?
For our money, head to Salvo: an online directory of salvage yards. It’s a brilliant resource, which has gone beyond being a simple directory. Salvo encourages each of the yards they register to sign up to the ‘Salvo Code’, a code of conduct intended to give you, the purchaser, greater confidence in the legitimacy of the items you’re purchasing.
So, when you do look for your nearest reclamation yard, think about supporting those that guarantee your purchases are not stolen, haven’t been improperly removed from a protected site, and don’t contain any toxic materials.
To date, more than 150 dealers have signed on to the code.
Of those noble salvagers, these are our Top 9 reclamation yards:
Your Nearest & Best Salvage Yards
LASSCO is a real gem. This is the secret of designers, where they all go for their inspiration and to source truly unique and wonderful items, so you’re going to face some stiff competition, which also keeps the prices high. Nevertheless, the staff are universally knowledgeable and helpful, unless they don’t approve of your plans for a particular upcycle, in which case they have been known to refuse a sale.
There are even 3 sites to choose from, two in London and another out in the all too charming rolling green pastures of Oxfordshire…based in a pub!
Brunswick House, 30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 2LG; 020 7394 2100
Ropewalk, Maltby, London, SE1 3PA
Three Pigeons, London Rd, Milton Common, Oxfordshire OX9 2JN
RETROUVIUS may be smaller than LASSCO, but their selection is top notch. With their specialisation in unusual items from the 1960s and 70s, if you go in with a specific requirement in mind, you may be disappointed, but if your mind is open, you’ll be bound to find items that inspire and delight.
2A Ravensworth Road, Kensal Green, London, NW10 5NR; 020 8960 6060
Heading out of London brings opportunities for incredible finds and bargains. If you’re a designer or regular renovator, an annual tour of the next few locations will always pay dividends.
Cox’s Architectural in Gloucestershire is a fantastic venue; a 12,500 sq ft warehouse (with another half acre around it), this reclamation yard can feel overwhelming. Everything from doors and handles, to reclaimed beams and flooring, with a share of brassware and decorative items thrown in too. If you have a big project to undertake, Cox’s could be the place to start!
10 Fosseway Business Park, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire, GL56 9NQ; 01608 652505
Heading on up to Manchester brings you to INSITU – playing on the fact that it’s a reclamation yard set inside a reclaimed pub. 4,000 sq ft of salvage material set over four floors, the unique location is a fantastic setting for discovering unexpected furniture items just waiting to be rescued.
252 Chester Road, Hulme, Manchester, M15 4EX; 0161 839 5525
If you make it out to beautiful Bath, you’ll find MASCO, a reclamation yard so big it has two separate yards: one for building materials (bricks, tiles, timber floors and joists), and one for all the interior materials (doors, furniture and decorations).
Separately, MASCO even runs a reproduction factory, creating high quality replicas of some of the most popular items.
108 Walcot St, Bath, BA1 5BG; 01225 444404
From architectural antiques to restoration advice, ARC RECLAMATION is a fantastic destination for anyone on an upcycling deep-dive. Their large selection of doors, fireplaces and church furniture are all stand-outs.
Unit 1, Upper Downgate Farm, Sandy Lane, Steep Marsh, Petersfield, Hants, GU 32 2BG; 01730 231 995
Mongers relies on local craftspeople to restore and repair the items in their reclamation yard. The vast range of furniture and architectural features (along with a formal garden displaying garden antiques) are spread across the many buildings that encompass the workshops. The range of fixtures and fittings range from the 1890s to the 1950s.
15 Market Place, Hingham, Norfolk, NR9 4AF; 01953 851 868
Yew Tree Barn offers everything from furniture and fireplaces to garden ornaments and windows in this expansive reclamation yard. Not content with salvage-wear only, the team at Yew Tree now includes a full-time potter, as well as furniture restorers, a restaurant and art gallery.
Yew Tree Barn, High Newton, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria; 01395 31498
Each year, wonderful Knebworth House hosts the UK’s biggest and best collection of salvageable wares. If you have a particular project in mind, and you can’t find what you need here, then it quite possibly doesn’t exist. If you’ve not been able to find what you need at any of the other salvage yards, this is your last, best option.
You have to keep your eye out for this one though, as it does tend to shift about the calendar. July in 2018, May in 2019… its popularity and quality ensures that it happens in most years, but don’t assume it will be anything like it was.
Knebworth House, Old Knebworth Ln, Stevenage SG3 6PY; 01438 812661
TIPS FOR BUYING SALVAGE
Salvo also suggests these helpful tips to guide you in your salvage shopping:
- Ask where an item came from and if it’s appropriate for the purpose you have in mind.
- Ask your builders or craftspeople if they’ve used reclaimed items or material before.
- Be aware purchases made at auction or at trade fairs will often be non-refundable if they turn out to be other than they seemed. Buyer beware.
- However, buying at a yard will give you the protection of all the usual consumer protection laws.
- Make sure you’e wearing gloves and good tough boots when rummaging about. Splinters and sharp edges will always be waiting to spoil your shopping expedition.
- If you’ve found multiple items to purchase, well done! Don’t forget to ask for a discount!!